How to Approach a Person in Pain Who Needs Help

Seeking psychological help for a person in pain isn't easy. Furthermore, a person may meet some well-meaning others who'd like to help but aren't qualified to do so before they consult a psychologist.
How to Approach a Person in Pain Who Needs Help
Andrea Pérez

Written and verified by the psychologist Andrea Pérez.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Many well-meaning people would like to help a person in pain but can’t really offer what said person needs at the moment.

Imagine waking up with a swollen face, sore mouth, and fever. It doesn’t seem logical to consult a physiotherapist or urologist to treat the pain. It wouldn’t make sense to consult a clothing salesman either. This is because an oral problem usually requires a dentist, as this is the most qualified specialist for this purpose.

It makes sense, right? However, what’s intuitive with physical pain doesn’t usually occur with mental or emotional pain. A person with this kind of pain seldom seeks specialists who can answer their questions or prescribe medications to relieve it. In the best-case scenario, they may consult their family doctor. In turn, they may allow an unqualified person to try to treat the pain in the worst-case scenario.

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

-James Baldwin-

A person crying.

Obstacles a person in pain encounters when seeking help

The process of seeking psychological help is sometimes fraught with obstacles. In fact, the person might consult all kinds of quacks before they even consider a mental health professional.

Non-professional intrusion in mental health is a danger for both the one trying to help and the patient. Thus, the risk is similar to a priest treating phlegm or a toothache. Although they may be well-meaning, they just don’t have the knowledge to do so.

Thus, allowing a non-specialist, rather than a qualified professional, to treat mental health problems may worsen the problem. This is because the person may fail to access other alternatives that would’ve helped them.

White knights and saviors

Some people just feel the need to help others and will do it for free. The idea of someone willing to do anything for others may sound romantic. However, they’re really kind of scary and you should be wary of them.

A white knight is usually a person who “rescues” injured others in order to “repair” them. These people are usually wounded. They symbolically try to restore their own discomfort through another.

You usually come across them when you’re in a lot of emotional pain. Know that their help may have the hidden cost of doing exactly as they say and being emotional in debt to them. This is because the white knight is usually hurt when no “proper” retribution comes their way.

A man trying to help a woman.

A person in pain might need therapy

People consult a dentist with their oral problems. Similarly, you require a psychologist in order to heal emotional pain and distress. Although it sounds simple, the road to help is full of obstacles — as you may have already noticed.

A psychologist has years of training and scientific knowledge. They can assess what’s happening to a person and provide them with the necessary tools to boost their level of well-being.

Psychological treatment is a joint work between a person in pain and those who are there for them. This type of work follows certain rules that assure a patient will be treated ethically and professionally at all times.

Thus, a person in pain must seek professional help. Why would anyone allow a carpenter to treat a toothache? Likewise, why would anyone let someone who isn’t a psychologist treat their emotional pain? Being aware of this is often the best way to help.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.